Matt Dowling currently is a lecturer at Lam Family College of Business Management Department, and he has worked as an executive for the last 30 years. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1980. After completing his undergraduate studies, he went to pursue MBA from Boston College and completed his master’s in 1985. He took a break between the two and joined public accounting. He has a CPA license from the state of California. Matt has worked for various multi-national companies in different sectors like oil and gas, bicycles, and restaurants. His professional journey also took him to England for six years. After coming back to the United States, he joined as a CFO in a manufacturing company. He went to serve as the CFO, COO and eventually the CEO of Marin Mountain Bikes, CFO of Roundtable Pizza and served on the board of Roundtable family charities, served as the CFO and President of Boudin Bakery which is a 100-million-dollar restaurant company.
Matt came to know about Marin mountain bikes through one of his banking associates in San Francisco. At that time, the bicycles sector was not doing well, and the company also needed someone who knew finance to the core. After doing some consulting work at the initial stage, Matt eventually became CFO in a couple of years. Matt believes “it’s really interesting to work with founders” and describes founders as “dynamic people, who have a lot of personality and they don’t necessarily like rules”. He helped in expanding the business and eventually became a part-owner of the company and part-owner of the commercial real estate that the founder of M.M.B owned. The company sold bicycles in more than 45 countries. He was also a part of the discussions of a possible merger of Marin mountain bikes with Europe’s leading bicycle company called ‘Cycles Europe’. One of the reasons for the company’s exponential growth in both retail and distribution is Matt’s advice to increase the pricing of the products which were undervalued as compared to the market average.
When Matt joined Marin mountain bikes, the product pricing model in USA was not in a good shape. The overall margin of the company was lower at around 18% compared to the market average which was around 28%. He took the risk of increasing the price of the products which proved to be a substantial step towards the company’s success. Another challenge was when Matt helped a customer get the company back on its feet. This customer had just battled bankruptcy and they were the 2nd largest customer they had. According to Matt, it was a difficult decision to give more credit to the company who just faced bankruptcy, but instead of dropping the client, he took a very different approach. He did all the research work and built a great relationship with the client which eventually proved to be a successful and fruitful decision.
As the CEO of M.M.B, he got to travel around the world and had a chance to attend bicycle shows and events which were organized twice or thrice a year in Germany, Las Vegas and Taiwan respectively. A particular fond memory of Matt was when he got invited to a dinner party at Taipei’s top floor (World’s tallest building at that time). He got a chance to sit at the main table of the restaurant with the world’s biggest bike supplier ‘Shimano’s’ board of directors and influential people who had played a big role in the bicycle business.
After Round Table Pizza was sold to a private equity group that was a great deal for the employees of RTP (it was 100% employee owned), Matt became the CFO and eventually the President of Boudin Bakery. He identified very early the need for a reformation in the company’s operations. He was part of a new management team, and helped downsize the company, outsourced the accounts department to account services in Kansas and in 8 to 9 months got funding and started making profits. Along with this, he brought a huge change in the company culture by incorporating trust and empowerment by giving good bonuses, making sure that employees were appreciated and rewarded for their performance.
His favorite quote reads “The harder I practice, the luckier I get”, which clearly transforms to if you work really hard, things fall into place eventually. To be successful, this is what he has to say- Do your homework, research about your field of work and if you want to pursue the life of an entrepreneur, make sure you have the stamina and the financial resources to be able to live like an entrepreneur for the first 2 or 3 years where you’re making not a lot of money and you’re working long hours. Also, decide if you want to start working with a non-start up in the beginning or if you want to get a master’s degree before opening up your own company. If you decide to work at a company, make sure you do your homework on that company, founders and co-founders as you’re going to be working really long hours and you’re going to be asked to do a lot of things that maybe aren’t even in your background, but they need to be done so you need to have a lot of passion for that company and that product.